Legislative alert – funding for transportation

This legislative alert just came through from Metro CEO Art Leahy’s office:

House Ways and Means Committee Mark-Up Slated For Tomorrow On Transportation Authorization Bill – Transit Funding Faces Serious Threat

Tomorrow, the House Ways and Means Committee is slated to mark-up the tax title of the surface transportation bill issued earlier this week by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The text of the bill emerging from Ways and Means Committee makes significant changes regarding the flow of federal Highway Trust Fund dollars into the Mass Transit Account. Specifically, the bill being advanced by Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) would end the use of gas tax revenues for public transportation. In the place of Highway Trust Fund transfers to the Mass Transit Account, the bill proposes to create a new “Alternative Transportation Account”. As of this moment, no dedicated funding stream for the new “Alternative Transportation Account” has been identified. Our agency, along with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), strongly opposes the proposal to end the practice of using motor fuel tax revenues to fund public transportation projects. The change proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee represents a clear threat to the robust federal transit funding supported by our agency and transportation agencies across the nation. According to APTA, the “Reallocation of funds would eliminate a dependable and predictable source of funding for much needed investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure.”  We will be communicating our concerns to all members of the House Ways and Means Committee, including Rep. Xavier Becerra, who is a senior member of the committee.

Five things I'm thinking about transportation, Feb. 1 edition

What the world probably doesn't need: more lengthy reports on transportation projects. Photo by unk's dump truck, via Flickr.

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW: There has been talk lately about reforming the environmental review process for transportation projects. It’s something, I think, should happen.

Look at the current process. It often takes five years and many millions of dollars to complete environmental studies for transportation projects. It’s a boon for transportation planners and consultants — cha-ching! — but are we really getting better projects as a result?

If an agency wants to build, for example, a light rail line along an existing railroad right-of-way in a developed urban area, is it really necessary to study not building the project? Or building it in many other places? Or exhaustively explaining why it’s needed (standard reason: traffic stinks)? And is it necessary to study every conceivable impact in an area already highly impacted by all the things that go with being in an urban area? And do we really need to study the air quality benefits of electrified rail over gasoline powered travel?

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Live video stream of tonight's High Desert Corridor meeting at 6:30 p.m.

High Desert Corridor banner

A quick reminder: Metro is hosting a meeting tonight in Victorville to provide the community with a status report on the High Desert Corridor project. The Metro HDC webpage notes that the project “proposes the construction of a new, approximately 63-mile, east-west freeway/expressway linking State Route (SR)-14 in Los Angeles County with SR-18 in San Bernardino County.”

For those who can’t make it to the meeting, but are interested none-the-less, you can view a live video feed of the presentation starting at 6:30 p.m. via this link:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/metro-high-desert-corridor

Tonight’s is the second-to-last community meeting in this round, with one more tomorrow night in Adelanto. Here are the details on that one:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 6-8pm
Stater Brothers Stadium,
Mavericks Conference Room
12000 Stadium Way
Adelanto, CA 92301

For more information on the High Desert Corridor Project, you can check out this presentation we posted last week, embedded below, and follow the High Desert Corridor Twitter feed.

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Orange Line Extension progresses toward June opening

UPDATE: Here is a video from the tour:

The view looking north toward Chatsworth station from the new bridge that will carry the Orange Line Extension over the Metrolink and Amtrak tracks.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa talks with media and Metro officials on the new Orange Line Extension bridge. This view is looking south.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa and Metro officials provided a media tour of the Orange Line Extension this morning. The news release below has many details on the four-mile line between the existing Canoga station and the Chatsworth train station.

Mayor Villaraigosa added a few comments worth noting. Among them:

•Although the Orange Line Extension is a Measure R project, Metro was able to secure state funds to help pay for the busway. That, said the Mayor, will free up the Orange Line’s Measure R funds — about $182 million — to help pay for other Measure R projects in the San Fernando Valley.

•The Mayor said that the Orange Line is another project that creates linkages as part of Metro’s growing network of transit — in this case linking Metrolink and Amtrak to job-rich Warner Center and to the rest of the Orange Line that connects with the Red Line. “If we build these projects, people will use them and realize there is an alternative to the single-passenger automobile,” the Mayor said.

•As for other projects, the Mayor said that the Expo Line light rail should be opening soon — although he did not provide a date — and that there should be a groundbreaking on the Crenshaw/LAX Line later in the year.

Construction Progress Press Release

There are a couple more photos after the jump along with a map of the project.

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Metro Board meeting roundup

Here are some other actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors at their meeting on Thursday:

•(Item 5) The Board approved a motion by Councilman Jose Huizar seeking construction bids that would include building a second portal — at 2nd and Spring — to the 2nd/Broadway station for the Regional Connector. This doesn’t guarantee that the portal will be built, nor does it add to the project’s budget.

•(Item 14) The Board approved a $3.9-million contract with Consensus to provide public outreach services for the environmental studies for the project that seeks to improve traffic in the area around the 710 gap.

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Metro Board adopts Project Labor Agreement to help secure jobs for low-income workers

The Metro Board of Directors today unanimously approved a plan to help increase the number of workers from disadvantaged areas to be hired to work on the agency’s transit and road projects.

The Project Labor Agreement (PLA) between Metro and the Los Angeles/Orange County Building Trades Council is believed by Metro to be the first of its kind for a transit agency in the United States. Under the PLA, 40 percent of work hours on Metro projects would be done by workers who live in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and 10 percent of the hours going to workers struggling with poverty.

Many members of the public testified in favor of the plan, most hewing to a simple message: times are tough, they’re unemployed and they need a job “not just to survive, but to live.”

Supervisor and Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas (in photo above) said after the vote that the rest of the nation now has the chance to follow Metro and create jobs in places where they are most needed by building transportation infrastructure. We “have paved the way in an extraordinary way,” Ridley-Thomas said. “This is a matter of justice and of putting public resources in areas that need them.”

Los Angeles Mayor and Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa voiced similar praised for the PLA, saying he believes the program will help some people “escape the crushing bonds of poverty” and create a path for workers to the middle class.

After the jump are Metro fact sheets on the PLA. And here is an L.A. Times editorial backing the agreement.

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SCAG to hold community update meeting for Sustainable Communities Strategy

A rendering of what a more walkable, transit-accessible community might look like. For more examples, see photos of every city before 1900. Photo via SCAG.

After you’re done giving the city of L.A. input on its mobility program — as mentioned here yesterday — you’ll have a chance to consider the big picture too.

The Southern California Association of Governments is hosting public workshops this winter to update the public on SCAG’s draft Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Community Strategy. The SCS is mandated by recent California law SB 375 which requires regions to better integrate “transportation, land use, housing, and environmental planning with the goal of reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions,” says the SCAG homepage.

That is to say: Less sprawl and more walkable and transit-friendly communities. After all, that’s what Southern Californians say they’d like to see more of, according to a recent survey by Move LA, the American Lung Association, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The first public hearing was yesterday afternoon in San Bernardino but there are two more coming up: tonight in Anaheim at 5 p.m. and next Thursday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles.

Details are below:

Public Hearing: Draft 2012-2035 RTP/SCS 1/26/2012 5:00 PM City of Anaheim, Council Chambers, 200 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, CA 92805
Public Hearing: Draft 2012-2035 RTP/SCS 2/2/2012 3:00 PM SCAG Main Office, 818 W. 7th Street, 12th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017

For more information on SCAG’s role in regional mobility, check out The Source’s coverage of SCAG’s Regional Transportation Plan update from last August.